Friday, March 29, 2013

Brownie Pudding Cake

"What do you want for dessert?" I asked the husband.

"Well, I like cookies. And pie. And cake." I could see the wheels turning. "I want something with pudding in it." He finally proclaimed.

So I made the man something with pudding in it.

Brownie Pudding Cake
Adapted from Home Cookin'

1 boxed brownie mix and the ingredients called for on the box
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
8 ounces Cool Whip
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding
1 1/2 cups cold milk
Heath Bar bits for topping, optional

Bake brownies according to package directions in an 8" square pan. Allow to cool completely before proceeding.

Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip together cream cheese and powdered sugar until fluffy. Gently fold in about 2/3 of the Cool Whip. Spread on top of the cooled brownie layer.

Whisk together pudding and milk for 2 minutes, until it's thickened. Spread on top of the cream cheese layer. Top with remaining Cool Whip. Sprinkle with Heath Bar bits. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*I used Heath Bar bits to add pizzazz to the top of my Brownie Pudding Cake because I happened to have some in my cupboard. I'm sure that crushed Oreos, mini chocolate chips, chocolate shavings or any number of other toppings would be just as good.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Hot ham. Is that a Midwestern thing? Every Sunday, you can visit your local deli, bakery, or grocery store to pick up hot ham and rolls after church. There's usually a little sign in the window embellished with a picture of a pig and highlighting the bargain. "Hot ham! $5.99 per pound! Plus 6 rolls FOR FREE!!" How can you pass that up?

On a recent Sunday, the husband and I stopped to pick up half a pound of hot ham and rolls for lunch. I waited in the car and sang "Wheels on the Bus" with our boy, and he made the purchase. When he left the bakery, though, he was carrying a gigantic bag. Maybe he got a few dozen donuts to go along with our hot ham? "Uh, they accidentally gave me a pound-and-a-half of ham." Which, of course, came with nine rolls. Good thing we were hungry.

Since we had a bit of ham leftover, I had to get creative to use it up. Chicken Cordon Bleu was just the ticket.

Chicken Cordon Bleu
Adapted from Tyler Florence
Serves: 2

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 slices deli ham
1/2 cup shredded cheese*
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mist a baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Cover the chicken breasts with saran wrap and pound to 1/4" thickness. (If you plan ahead, you can ask the butcher to do this for you.) Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Flip the chicken over so the "back" of the breast is facing you. (This will make sure the nicer-looking "presentation" side ends up on top.)

Spread 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard on each chicken breast. Then layer one slice of ham and sprinkle with cheese. Tuck in the sides of the chicken to help keep the cheese from oozing out. (I didn't do a great job tucking in the sides, and mine stilled ended up delicious. So don't let this step stress you out.) Starting at the skinny, tapered end of each chicken breast, tightly roll up the chicken like a jellyroll. Then roll each chicken "log" in saran wrap and twist the ends of the saran wrap to make sure the chicken is tightly wrapped. (If you are prepping ahead of time, refrigerate chicken "logs" until you're ready to finish dinner.)

Place flour, bread crumbs, and egg in three separate shallow dishes. Season each dish with salt and pepper. Stir Italian seasoning into bread crumbs.

Remove saran wrap from the chicken. Dredge chicken in flour and pat off excess. Then dip chicken into egg, allowing excess to drip off. Finally, roll chicken in breadcrumbs, pressing to make sure they adhere. Place chicken in prepared baking dish and drizzle with melted butter.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees and breadcrumbs are golden brown. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

*Most Chicken Cordon Bleu recipes use Swiss cheese Since the husband isn't a fan of Swiss cheese, I used a combo of mozzarella and Parmesan. If you like Swiss cheese, though, I think that would be wonderful.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

When I read this recipe, I had to try it. Was it the chocolate that called to me? Perhaps the novelty of baking a cake in a loaf pan? Oh, no, dear readers. It was something far more wonderful than that.

You see, the cake was described as "squidgy." Yes, squidgy. I didn't have a clue what squidgy was, but as it held the promise of onomatopoeia, I had to find out.

As the cake baked, my house was inundated with the heavenly scent of chocolate. Like I lived in a chocolate sauna. While it cooled I kept walking past the cake, hoping that a morsel had miraculously fallen off so I could nibble on it guilt-free. I didn't. My patience was rewarded when I sliced into the dense loaf, and felt the decadence of this cake. It had presence. Heft. And then I tasted it. Good gosh. It was an intensely chocolaty bite of heaven.

Most importantly, though, this cake is squidgy. And believe me, that's a very good thing.

P.S. Thanks to the husband for taking today's picture!

Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake
Adapted from Nigella Lawson via Food 52

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 2/3 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease two loaf pans, line them with parchment paper, then grease the parchment. Set prepared pans aside.

Cream together butter and brown sugar. (You can use the paddle attachment on your electric mixer or just a spoon and old-fashioned elbow grease.) Stir in eggs and vanilla until well combined. Fold in melted chocolate.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. Add a big scoop of the flour mixture to the chocolate-butter mixture and stir to combine. Then stir in a few glugs of the boiling water. Continue adding the flour mixture and the boiling water alternately until everything is mixed together. (The batter will be pretty liquid.)

Evenly divide batter between the two prepared loaf pans. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Then, lower the heat to 325 degrees and continue to bake for an additional 5-10 minutes. (The cake is quite moist, so if you insert a toothpick to see if the cake is done, it won't be completely clean even if the cake is finished baking.)

Allow the cake to cool completely before removing from the pan. (It will most likely crack and buckle as it cools, but don't be dismayed. The imperfection of this cake is part of its charm!) Serve thick slices of cake with a dollop of whipped cream.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pumpkin and Ricotta Pasta Bake

Remember waaaaaay back when to last fall. Kids were going back to school. The air was crisp. Leaves crinkled under your feet. And canned pumpkin was on sale for dirt cheap.

So you bought 3 or 58 cans. You thought to yourself, "What a great deal! I love pumpkin! I'm going to make pumpkin bread every week! This is my best idea ever!" Now every time you open the cupboard, 57 cans of pumpkin come tumbling at you.

Apparently you purchased enough pumpkin to last through the apocalypse. And since spring is just around the corner, let's go ahead and use up a can. Ok? Ok.

Pumpkin and Ricotta Pasta Bake
Serves: 6
Adapted from The Kitchn

1 pound small pasta (elbows, little shells, rotini, cellentani...)
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 teaspoons salt, plus more for the pasta water
Pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh* sage leaves, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9" x 13" baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large pot of generously salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions for one minute less than al dente. (For example, if the box says to cook your pasta for 10 minutes to be al dente, cook it for 9 minutes. It will finish cooking in the oven later.) Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a very large bowl, whisk together ricotta, pumpkin, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, eggs, yogurt, 2 teaspoons salt, pepper to taste, nutmeg, ginger, sage, and garlic. Stir in pecans and cooked pasta.

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden brown.

*I think it was worth it to use fresh sage in this recipe. It really added pizzazz.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon

When the husband and I got hitched way back when, we registered at Williams Sonoma. They gave us a packet of recipes, including one for Roasted Asparagus with Lemon.

Fast forward 8.5 years, and the Roasted Asparagus with Lemon is just as good. The husband? He's even better.

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon
Adapted from Williams Sonoma
Serves: 4

1 pound asparagus (I like to use spears that are about the width of a pencil.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 clove garlic
1/2 lemon, cut into four pieces

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and place on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to toss asparagus with the oil and spices, making sure each spear is evenly coated.

Crush the garlic and peel it, then slice the clove in half. Nestle the garlic and lemon slices around the asparagus.

Roast until the asparagus is tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Serve asparagus with the roasted lemon wedges to squeeze over top.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Do any of you have a weekly tradition?  I remember when I was in college “The Office” had just started and we would all meet in the common area every Thursday to watch it together.  Now MZ and I hit up a local restaurant for reverse happy hour every Thursday night at 8 for live music and split a wedge salad and fried pickles (although MZ usually looks at me with disdain as I peel off the dill infused breading and eat the pickle in its purest form).  But one NEW weekly tradition I started this year spans both of the aforementioned weekly rituals and combines my greatest loves… Reality TV, good food and even better company --- Monday “The Bachelor” Night!

I’ll admit I have never really been a big Bachelor/Bachelorette fan.  I am much more of a Bravo/E! person, but when my friend Jessica started a “The Bachelor” bracket and Susan suggested we meet at her house and have food and start late to be commercial free I said, “SIGN ME UP!”  Plus, Susan’s incredibly witty husband had hilarious aside comments (one of my favorites involved describing AshLee’s look to the wicked witch of the west) and we got to cuddle Jessica’s new adorable baby girl… AKA MZ holding her like a football because as she attests “When I have kids I think I’d just like to have them back when they’re two.”

One night I asked if I could test out a new recipe, mostly because I knew Susan owned a food processer and it was a necessary part of the recipe (sorry, I promise I wasn’t just “using” you, Suze!)  Plus it is gluten free and that worked with Susan’s dietary restrictions… done and done!  When I said I was making pizza with cauliflower I received some skeptical looks, but in the end all agreed it was DELISH!  What we didn’t agree with was Sean’s final choice … although we definitely appreciated Lindsay taking off her shoes and walking away while telling him to stop following her.  Can’t wait for next season … and the next recipe!

Cauliflower Crust Pizza
Servings: about 2 Servings

For the crust:
2 cups grated cauliflower (about 1/2 a head)
1/2 cup yogurt
1 egg
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Dash of sea salt

For the topping:
3/4 cup of your favorite store-bought or homemade marinara sauce
1/2 cup of part skim mozzarella
Choice of cooked vegetables (optional)

1 large baking sheet (about 11×18 inches)
Parchment paper
What to Do:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a food processor, prepare the cauliflower by pulsing florets until they take on a grainy or grated texture.  Place 2 cups of the grated cauliflower into a clean, thin dish towel. Wrap it up in the middle and twist closed, squeezing out all the moisture.

Place the dry cauliflower into a bowl and add the yogurt, eggs, and spices.  Fold the mixture until everything is evenly combined.

Place the cauliflower “dough” onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spread the mixture with your hands until it is about 3/4-inch thick. Tadaaah… you’ve got yourself some crust!
Bake the crust for 30 minutes or until lightly browned and firm enough to hold its shape.  Remove the crust from the oven and top with marinara sauce, shredded mozzarella, and your choice of veggies. (If using raw vegetables like we did, I’d suggest cooking them slight at first until they have the desired consistency since they won’t be in the oven much time.)

Pop the pizza back into the oven for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted, take some to the couch in front of the tv and ENJOY!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Neiman Marcus Cookies

My college roommate, Kim, is a great cook. I can probably attribute at least 5 pounds of my "freshman 15" to her baking skills. (The other 10 can be attributed to questionable food choices. For example, is it really a good idea to eat a large quantity of fudge that you've spread with peanut butter? No. No, it's not.)

Two of the treats that Kim made most often were banana bread and chocolate chip cookies. (Is it really a good idea for two girls to eat half an entire loaf of banana bread in one sitting? No. No, it's not.) Those chocolate chip cookies were so delicious, though. Hordes of hungry college students hovering greedily around the dorm kitchen kind of good.

I never got Kim's recipe, but I remember that she always blitzed oatmeal in the blender to make her cookies. When I read a recipe for Neiman Marcus Cookies online and saw the blended oatmeal, I knew I had to make them.

As I devoured a cookie warm from the oven, I was back in our college dorm. Christmas lights twinkling from the ceiling year round, "Beautiful Day" blaring from the CD player, the musty odor emanating from our thrift store couch. Unfortunately I'm too old to eat the entire batch of cookies in one sitting without wicked heartburn or it would have been just like the good old days. I guess I'm growing up after all.

Neiman Marcus Cookies

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cups milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Measure 2 1/2 cups oats into a blender or food processor and blend until it's a fine powder. (It's like you're making oatmeal flour.)

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the oatmeal "flour" you blended earlier. Beat half of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Once it's combined, beat in the rest of the dry ingredients. Stir in semisweet chocolate chips and milk chocolate chips.

Grease baking sheets with cooking spray or line them with parchment paper. Roll dough into 1 1/2" balls and place a couple inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, until cookies are very lightly browned. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before removing the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. (My favorite way to eat these cookies, though, is straight from the oven.)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Slow Cooker Chicken & Biscuits

This is comfort food to the max. Even though it's March and spring is just around the corner, we still need stick-to-your-ribs hot dinner here in Wisconsin. We got 6" of snow this week. (You can't see this, but I'm banging my head against my keyboard. I am SO over winter.)

Also, it's ridiculously easy. I'm talking 10 minutes of prep time. Chop up some veggies. Crack open a can of soup. Chip the freezer burn off a couple chicken breasts and toss those babies in the crock pot. (Still frozen, people! So easy!) Fast forward a few hours, and your house smells like grandma's, you did barely any work, and dinner is ready to be shoveled into your pie hole. I'd rather shovel dinner than snow any day.

Slow Cooker Chicken & Biscuits
Adapted from Tablespoon
Serves: 6

4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, frozen*
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 (14.5-ounce) cans cream of chicken soup
12-ounce bag frozen mixed vegetables
Salt and pepper
1 can of refrigerated biscuits
Butter for serving

Spray slow cooker with cooking spray. (The inside. Don't spray the part with the buttons. Obviously.) Add chicken to slow cooker and sprinkle with poultry seasoning. Top with celery and onion. Pour soup over everything. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or until chicken is cooked through.

Once chicken is cooked, cut or shred it into bite-sized pieces and place back into the slow cooker. Stir in frozen vegetables. Cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes, until vegetables are hot.

Meanwhile, bake the biscuits according to package directions.

Once veggies are heated through, season to taste with salt and pepper. Split warm biscuits in half and slather with butter. Serve chicken over biscuits.

*I used frozen chicken breasts because that was the state they were in when it was time to make dinner. If you're chicken is thawed, great! Just reduce the cook time a bit.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

I love butternut squash soup. In fact I've already posted several recipes for it here on HDHH. Over the past couple years I've read several recipes for butternut squash soup with apples. Two of my favorite foods in one soup...very tempting. But I was concerned that the apple would make the soup too sweet.

When I read a recipe that called for roasting the apples first, it smacked me in the face with fabulousness. Obviously! Roasting would add a rich and savory element to the apples. Plus it's easy. I mean, pour oil on top and pop those babies in the oven. What's not to love?

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
Serves: 6
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds), peeled and cut into 1" to 1 1/2" pieces*
3 apples, peeled and cut into 1" to 1 1/2" pieces
2 shallots, peeled and quartered
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Sour cream for serving, optional

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place squash, apples, and shallots on a very large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Use your hands to toss everything together until evenly coated. Spread into a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake until squash and apples are golden and soft, about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Stir 1/2 cup broth into the vegetables on the baking sheet, scraping up the delicious browned bits on the bottom of the sheet. Bake for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the broth is absorbed.

Place cooked squash, apples, and shallots into a large saucepan. Stir in remaining 3 1/2 cups broth and use an immersion blender to puree the soup until it's smooth. (If you don't have an immersion blender, puree the squash, apples, and shallots in a blender before adding it to the saucepan. You may need to do this in batches.) If the soup is too thick for your taste, stir in a bit of water until it reaches your desired consistency. Stir in maple syrup, vinegar, and nutmeg. Heat the soup over medium low until it's warmed through. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

*I bought butternut squash already peeled and cut into chunks at Costco. Peeling and cutting squash is a pain in my neck.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Chicken and Red Pepper Wrap with Goat Cheese Spread

Let's make a sandwich today, shall we?

Stir up a quick and creamy goat cheese spread to make things special. And be sure to grill it in a panini press so it counts as hot dinner.

Chicken and Red Pepper Wrap with Goat Cheese Spread
Serves: 2

1 ounce cream cheese (at room temperature so it's easy to spread)
1 ounce goat cheese (at room temperature so it's easy to spread)
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 flour tortillas
1 cup loosely packed baby spinach
1 cooked chicken breast*, thinly sliced
1/2 of a jarred roasted red pepper, thinly sliced

Preheat panini press. Meanwhile, stir together cream cheese, goat cheese, Italian seasoning, and pepper to taste.

Evenly divide the goat cheese spread between the tortillas and spread it out to the edge. Top with spinach, chicken, and red pepper. Roll up the tortilla and grill the sandwich in a panini press until the tortilla is crispy and the sandwich is warmed through.

*I used rotisserie chicken. Leftover chicken or turkey from the deli would work just fine.